The Eyre Family.

Dr. Cox (Derbyshire Churches, vol. ii.) states "The Eyres of Rampton were descended from Roger Eyre, of Holme, fourth son of Robert Eyre and Joan Padley; the Eyres of Rowtor were descended from Stephen Eyre of Hassop, eleventh son of Robert Eyre and Joan Padley." Unto Anthony and Mary Eyre were born at Rampton, Margaret, baptized 17th June, 1610; Bridget, baptized 14th June, 1613; Jane, baptized August 3rd, 1614, died April, 1618; Arthur, baptized 5th November, 1615, died May, 1617; Jane, baptized 23rd  November, 1618, married February 17th, 1640, to Sir Gervas Clifton, Thoroton says "Sir Gervas Clifton out did Henry VIII in the number of his wives, having been married seven times;" Jane Eyre was his sixth wife. Anne, baptized 17th  October, 1620; Millesant, baptized 23rd January, 1622. There is no entry in the register of the burial of Anthony, though his widow was buried here I5th July, 1632. Probably, when Sir Gervas married Elizabeth Babington, and became possessor of the Manor, the parents left Rampton and went to live elsewhere.

In Piercy's History of Retford it is stated that "Sir Gervas Eyre took part in favour of Charles the first, during the troubles of that reign. He raised and commanded several troops of horse for the King and was esteemed one of the best horsemen in the King's army. He died at the siege of Newark." Mr. Cornelius Brown states—"He was given the command of a troop of horse, and participated in the many conflicts by which the Newark cavalry succeeded in making itself conspicuous for its bravery and prowess. When the ancient castle was besieged, and Prince Rupert hastened to its relief. Sir Gervas Eyre's regiment of horse was intrusted with the duty of preventing the two wings of the enemy's forces from uniting. In 1645 the gallant soldier was slain in action."

Sir Gervas and his father sold their property at Kiveton and Newport to Sir Edward Osburn, ancester of the Duke of Leeds.

Sir Gervas and his wife had issue:—Mary, baptized 6th February, 1627, she married Sir John Newton of Hather; Anthony, baptized 26th February, 1631, died May, 1633; Barbara, baptized 14th May, 1633, died January, 1634; Anthony, baptized 17th September, 1634 5 Gervas, baptized 22nd September, 1638, died September, 1640; Anne, baptized 22nd July, 1640.

There is no entry of the burial of Sir Gervas in the register, although on the north wall of the chancel there is a brass plate with this inscription:—"In this vault lie the remains of Sir Gervas Eyre, esq, Knight, who was killed in defending Newark Castle for King Charles I." The registers were not carefully kept at that period.

He was succeeded in the Manor by his son Anthony, who was only twelve years of age at the death of his father. He was twice married:—(1) Lucy, daughter of Sir John Digby of Mansfield Woodhouse. She died June, 1659, by her he had a son Robert, born 30th June, 1655, died February, 1659, and a daughter. (2) Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Packington, Bart., of Westwood, co. Worcester, and by her had issue:—Dorothy, married John Bradshaw; Mary; Margaret, baptized 20th April, 1667; Gervas, baptized 20th August, 1669; Anthony, baptized 9th June, 1671, died September, 1672.

He was chosen knight of the Shire for the county of Nottingham, at the first new Parliament which was summoned by Charles II., and he served in that Parliament until his death. He was buried at Rampton, 1st November, 1671. He was an acting magistrate of the County, 1668 to 1670. His widow survived him many years.

Her name appears in the State Papers in connection with some litigation she had about a debt owing to the Exchequer for which her husband's heirs and assigns were liable. Anthony Eyre and William Stanhope held a farm in King's Excise for the county of Notts, from 1665 to 1671, and another lease was entered upon for three years in 1671, but Anthony Eyre died six months afterwards. At the end of three years, June 24th, 1674, there was a deficiency of £604 4s. 0d. for which the contractors, their heirs and assigns, and their bondsmen, were liable. We learn from the State Papers that in 1680, Mrs. Elizabeth Eyre had reduced the debt to £293 17s. 0d., and that she appealed to the King to cause his official to forbear his hand against her, and recover the balance owing from Edward Ryall and Nicholas Battuile, the original bondsmen. Her petition was granted. Then the bondsmen did not want to pay, and petitioned the excise commissioners to cancel the process against them, and collect the balance from the said William Stanhope and the heirs of the said Anthony Eyre.

There is an interesting reference to Mrs. Elizabeth Eyre in the "Reliquae Hearnianae," October 31st, 1698, quoted in the Nottingham Guardian, September, 1913, "Mr. Thomas Caulton, Vicar of Worksop, in Nottinghamshire (in the presence of Mr. William Thornton aud his lady, Madam Frances Heathcote, Mrs. Mary Ash, Mrs. Mary Caulton, and John Hewt, Rector of Harthill), declared the words following, viz., November 5th, 1689, at Shire Oak, Madam Eyre of Rampton, after dinner, took me up into her chamber and told me that her daughter, Moyser, of Beverley, was dead, and that in that month she had buried her husband and several relations, but that her comfort was that by her monthly sacraments she participated still with them in the communion of saints. Then she went to her closet and fetched out a MS. which she said was the original of the 'Whole Duty of Man,' tied together and stiched in 8vo., like sermon notes. She untied it, saying it was Dr. Fell's correction, and saying, that the author was the Lady Packington, her mother, in whose hand it was."

There is an interesting reference to the "Whole Duty of Man" in Mr. Augustine Birrell's essay on "Authors in Court." He says "That fine old book—once on every settle—The 'Whole duty of Man,' first raised the question of Copyright. Its date of publication was 1657, so it had its run for twenty years. That term having expired, what then? The proceedings throw no light upon the vexed question of the book's authorship. Sir Joseph Jekyll was content with the evidence before him that, in 1735 at all events, the "Whole duty of Man" was, or would have been but for statute, the property of one Mr. Eyre. He granted an injunction, thus in effect deciding that the old common Law had survived the statute. Nor did the defendant appeal, but sat down under the affront, and left the 'Whole Duty of Man' alone for the future."

On the other hand, in another book by the same author, "The Whole Duty of Prayer," the writer of the Preface (9th edition) says;—"I need not recommend this small manual to the world since it is by so Learned an Author, whose Works have been sufficient Demonstration of his Worth and Excellency, and will to his lasting Honour be venerated in all ages. This Pattern of Piety hath lay concealed for many years, and was first dedicated to the service of an honourable Lady, in whose cabinet it hath been closely kept as one of her precious Jewels; it was never designed for the press, by Reason the Reverend Author's modesty should be offended . . ." From these words we gather that the author of these two books was a clergyman, and not the Lady Packington. The question of authorship therefore remains unsolved.

On December 20th, 1670, a Mrs. Margaret Packington was married in Rampton Church to William Godfrey, esqr.;  she was probably sister-in-law to Mrs. Eyre.

Gervas, son of Anthony and Elizabeth, was the next heir to the Manor, he was only two years old on the death of his father. He was High Sheriff for Notts, in 1699, and was returned to Parliament at different times as Knight of the Shire. For some time he resided at Sandbeck, county Yorks. He married Catherine, only surviving daughter of Sir Henry Cooke, Bart., of Wheatley, and by her had issue:—Catherine, baptized 10th July, 1692; Henry, baptized 22nd September, 1693, died October, 1693; Anthony, his heir; Henry, who inherited by will the estates of his Kinsman, Thomas Eyre, of Rowtor, county Derby, on condition of constantly residing at Rowtor Hall, where he was to maintain "a good house of sober hospitality;" George of West Retford, and six others. In the chancel of Youlgrave Church is a plain brass to the memory of Catherine, daughter of Gervase Eyre of Rampton, who died in 1723, aged 30, and of her sister Dorothy, who died in 1719, aged 19 years. Gervas is said to have died of smallpox in London, when attending duty in Parliament. On the north wall of the chancel there is a handsome tablet to his memory, the inscription is as follows:—

"Here lies interred Gervas Eyre, esqr, only son of Anthony Eyre esqr, of this place, and Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Sir John Packington, Bart, of Westwood in Worcester. While he was young, the free-holders of his county conceived such expectation of him, as to choose him for their representative in Parliament, in which station he continued till the time of his death. His conduct has always been such as entitled him to the favour of all true friends of our Church and Constitution, of both which he was an unwearied advocate, of distinguished judgment in public affairs, and possessed of all the accomplishments which form a true Patriot; in short, in him were found all those virtues, by the exercise of which, his Ancestors had so eminently distinguished themselves. One of which, Colonel Eyre, for the service of his country and Royal Master, Charles the Martyr, lost his life in the defence of Newark Castle. Another, the Lady Packington, so admired for her Piety and accomplishments above her Sex, as by some to be reputed the Author of the Whole duty of Man. He died February 16th, 1703, aged 34.

"Here also lies Catherine his wife, daughter of Sir Henry Cooke, Bart, of Wheatley in Yorkshire. She inherited the candour and good nature inherent in her family, which together with her other virtues, finished in her the character of a virtuous wife, an affectionate mother, a good neighbour, and a charitable benefactor to the poor. She being inconsolable for the death of her husband, did not long survive him, but departed this life Nov. 7, 1704, leaving nine children surviving.

"This monument was erected pursuant to the last will of Catherine Eyre, second daughter of the above said Gervas and Catherine Eyre, who was possessed of her mother's virtues."

Gervas was succeeded by his son Anthony, who in 1726, pulled down the old family house at Rampton, and removed to an estate which he had at Laughton-en-le-Morthen, county York, until he purchased the estate at Adwicke, and continued to reside there until his death. He was buried at Rampton, 1749. He was Member of Parliament for Boroughbridge, 1729; High Sheriff for Notts., 1729. He married Margaret, fifth daughter of Charles Turner, of Kirk Leatham, county York ; she was buried at Rampton, 18th November, 1762. They had a son Gervas, baptized 28th July, 1720, died June, 1741; two daughters, also born at Rampton, viz., Katherine, baptized 6th July, 1721, and Diana, baptized 26th July, 1723; and a son Anthony, born 1728, after they left Rampton. The family did not cease to take an interest in the parish. In 1734, four acres of land in Treswell were purchased with £110 5s. bequeathed by Anthony Eyre, esqr., the rent of which was to be, and is still distributed amongst the poor on St. Thomas's Day. In 1758, Diana Eyre gave three-and-a-half acres, the rent of which was to be paid to a teacher half-yearly to teach ten children. In 1763, Diana Eyre left £50, the interest on which was also to be distributed on St. Thomas's Day; when the estate was sold in 1893 this charity was lost.